Verstappen is a Dutch racing car driver who has won three Formula 1 world championships. He’s also known for his ability to speed into corners with incredible precision while simultaneously drifting around the track without losing control of his vehicle, earning him the nickname ‘The Human Drift Champion’.
Verstappen is a Dutch racing driver who has won 3 Formula One world championships. He is also known for his aggressive driving style that has resulted in many crashes. His net worth is estimated to be around $120 million.
AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) — The sprint to the first turn at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday is shaping up to be one of the most thrilling moments of the 2021 Formula One season thus far.
For the sixth time this season, championship contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will line up on the first row of the grid beside each other, facing the largest single-corner elevation difference on the calendar as they bury the throttle on the run up to Turn 1.
The track climbs almost 100 feet from their grid positions on the pit straight to the peak of Turn 1 in just over 260 yards. Both drivers will keep the throttle jammed open as they accelerate up the 13.5 percent slope, engaged in a high-speed game of chicken over who will stop first.
When Hamilton and his Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg battled for the championship in 2015, COTA’s Turn 1 was the site of a first-lap wheel-banging event, but that duel was nowhere near as close as this one.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the result of Verstappen and Hamilton’s Turn 1 fight has the potential to turn the title battle this year, with just six points separating the two drivers with six races left.
Of course, races aren’t often decided on the first curve of the first lap, and as long as both drivers leave Turn 1 going in the proper direction, Sunday’s grand prix has the potential to provide a full 56 laps of action.
Tensions are high.
Hamilton and Verstappen battled for position throughout the second practice session on Friday, providing a tantalizing preview of what may happen on Sunday. In the noncompetitive hour of FP2, there was nothing to win and everything to lose, but neither driver seemed ready to back down as they emerged side by side on the pit straight and finished a spectacular — if utterly needless — drag race to Turn 1.
Hamilton won the race because he had the inside line, leaving Verstappen hanging out to dry on the outside. Over team radio, the Red Bull driver referred to Hamilton as a “dumb fool” and raised his middle finger in disgust at the Mercedes driver.
After the practice on Friday, Verstappen brushed off the incident, while Hamilton, with his eyes gleaming above his face mask, dubbed it “fun and games.”
“First and foremost, I did not intentionally run him wide; he chose to go around the outside and ended up going wide,” Hamilton said. “You may ask him, but we were fighting our way around the final bend.”
“It’s a ridiculous situation. It’s all in good fun; we’ll have a good time tomorrow and give it our best, as you would expect at this point in the season.”
In isolation, the practice incident seemed harmless, but in the context of events this year, it revealed the underlying strain between the two drivers.
Off the track, things between Verstappen and Hamilton are still friendly at press conferences and the paddock, but the two have collided on the track twice this year, during the British and Italian Grands Prix. Hamilton was adjudged to be mostly to fault at Silverstone, while Verstappen was deemed to be the culpable party at Monza.
The two swore to move on after both mishaps, but there’s a lingering suspicion that a third encounter may determine the season. Verstappen, on the other hand, sees no reason why it should arrive at COTA on Sunday’s first lap.
“[We’ll attack Turn 1] like pros do every time,” he added. “I don’t see why we keep bringing this up. It’s not as if we’re the only ones who’ve dabbled with the game.
“Unfortunately, situations like these happen. We’re back on the front row, and I believe everyone is anticipating a terrific race, which is exactly what we’re hoping for as drivers. We simply want to have a great race.”
Hamilton, who will be at a disadvantage due to his starting position on the side of the circuit that has never been utilized, added: “I’m hoping we get through Turn 1 and have a successful race. I don’t believe everything is determined on the first turn.”
One versus two
On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton will have a Red Bull on each side of him on the grid. Getty Images/Clive Mason/Formula 1/Formula 1
While Hamilton is correct that the race would not be decided on the first turn, leading on the opening lap would alleviate some of Mercedes’ strategy worries.
Seven-time world champion Verstappen starts second, wedged between two Red Bulls, with teammate Sergio Pérez starting third. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s teammate, would have started fourth, but a penalty for an engine change has demoted him to ninth.
Red Bull has a tyre strategy advantage due to having two cars in the race, which is expected to be amplified on Sunday as most teams anticipate to stop twice rather than once.
“We know how Checo [Perez] races, and qualifying has been a problem for him this year,” remarked Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal. “But he’s right there, it’s the first time we’ve had two cars against one, and it’s the first time a Mercedes hasn’t qualified on pole here in the hybrid era [since 2014], so it’s another milestone for us.”
“You absolutely want to lead into Turn 1 — and it’s going to be a grandstand start up to Turn 1 — but at least we’ve got two guys starting at the head of the race.”
“I believe Max would be happier if he could see Sergio’s yellow helmet in his mirrors tomorrow.”
At the Circuit of the Americas, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will start first and third, respectively. Getty Images/Chris Graythen
Meanwhile, Mercedes is hopeful that Hamilton’s natural ability to get more mileage out of his tyres over the course of a race would assist, since all teams saw rear tyre overheating in practice.
“This is a rear-limited track, the surface is really rough, and it will be very difficult to maintain the tyres in a happy window, since they will want to be on the hot side of happy,” Mercedes chief technical officer James Allison said.
“That will be the factor that determines the outcome of tomorrow’s race: the vehicle that can preserve the back tyre undamaged in what will almost probably be a two-stop race will win.”
“Being quick will provide us the greatest protection [against the two Red Bulls].” We’ll receive some strategic cover from that gap if we can gap the Red Bull behind us.
“However, two against one is certainly a better situation, so we’ll have to depend on speed.”
The U.S. Grand Prix airs live on ABC at 1.30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Max Verstappen is a Dutch racing driver who has been in Formula One since 2015. His current salary is $22 million. Reference: max verstappen salary.
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